MOMENTS IN SPACE HISTORY
68: SPACE COAST LIVING | SPACECOASTLIVING.COM
MIKE HADDAD PHOTOS
Haddad, left, helps install the orbital refueling system in the Kennedy Space Center’s
Operations and Checkout Building for a 1984 Spacelab mission.
the NASA Alumni League and Cape Canaveral Lighthouse
preservation. Her work on Spacelab remains vivid to her in
part because of her love of math and physics.
“Working on flight equipment was really exciting for me,”
Like Bolton, Mike Haddad enjoyed the demanding career.
He dreamed of working at the space center before becoming
a full-time payload engineer in 1982. Shortly after he
graduated the University of Central Florida with a bachelor’s
degree in mechanical engineering, Haddad was assigned to
equip Spacelab’s pallets that held telescopes, antennae and
“We were in our early 20s right out of college,” Haddad says.
Now retired, the 64-year-old Cocoa Beach resident met the
challenge. “There was only one Spacelab on the planet and it
cost millions of dollars.”
During Spacelab’s pinnacle of missions in the ’80s, the
technicians worked 16-hour days, seven days in a row. At one
point, Haddad was working four missions simultaneously
setting up experiments for astronauts to conduct in space
and assembling flight hardware. Setting up a large format
camera and the orbital refueling system for the STS-41-G
mission in 1984 remains his most memorable
“I reviewed the drawings and put that together with my
hands,” Haddad says. “We got to work directly with the parts.
I’d write the procedure and then turn the bolts, connect the
cables and service the fluids and gases.”
Technicians also assembled many partial Spacelab payloads
with a much smaller box-like structure for flights such as the
STS-61C on the shuttle Columbia in 1986 that carried pilot
Charles Bolden Jr. and payload specialist Bill Nelson, both of
whom later became NASA administrators.
Haddad and other engineers at the space center worked
closely with the astronauts and with scientists worldwide. Often
technicians traveled to the Marshall Space Flight Center
to advise astronauts in flight on experiment procedures.
“A lot of what we did was a precursor to the International
Space Station,” Haddad says. “It was a precursor to the
Hubble and even to the James Webb telescopes.”
Spacelab gave way to the space station when construction on
it started in 1998.
Everything crews learned from Spacelab was applied to the
burgeoning, new outpost.
“We crammed everything into the shuttles for Spacelab for
experiments to be run for a period of days,” he says. “Now on
the space station, experiments run for years.”
Haddad and Bolton agree that Spacelab was critical to the
Payload systems engineer
Mike Haddad bids farewell
to space shuttle Atlantis
shortly after its final mission.
He began work on Spacelab
right after college.
“The international cooperation for science was the most
important thing,” Bolton says. “That is still important today.”
Haddad has preserved Spacelab’s history in a book he and David
Shayler wrote, Spacelab Payloads: Prepping Experiments and
Hardware for Flight, published in January by Spring Praxis Books.
Two years prior to Spacelab’s ending in 2000, Haddad helped
load electronic equipment from the experiments onto racks in
one of the modules before it was shipped to the National Air and
Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
On one weekend in September 1998, Haddad and a few friends
gathered to load the module before its eventual display at the
Steven Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia.
“It was our life,” he says. “We wanted to make it look like what
we worked on when it was orbiting the Earth.”